Monday, 27 January 2020

Australian artist makes his mark in Cambodia

Australian artist Morrison Polkinghorne has drawn on his base in Cambodia for the inspiration for his his grey- and black-toned paintings made from lotus stems and artisanal petal ink. 

His new exhibition, entitled Khmer Impressions/Les Impressions Khmères, runs from February through April at Sofitel Phokeethra Hotel Gallery in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital. 

Monochrome ink wash paintings, classically from China and Japan, are among the world's oldest artistic traditions. In his contemporary take, Polkinghorne adapts pointillism to this classic art form: first by using lotus stems as his brush, and secondly by creating an organic ink from its flower petals that is both holistic and spiritual in nature.

Lotus is the ideal imagery for Cambodia, as the lotus flower symbolises Buddha’s spiritual awakening, emerging from the muddy dark depths into light, and finally transmuting into a flash of beauty.

“I envision my pieces ecologically and holistically, with Cambodia's nature and environment as the inspiration,” says Polkinghorne. 

 “Lotus stems are my paintbrush, while its flowers create my tones.” 

Emphasis is placed on the refinement of every individual stroke's varying depths of tone. 

Each row complements the last, expressing simple beauty and elegance in the final compositions. The resultant works evoke myriad Cambodian images, from its vast rivers and Tonle Sap lake; Angkorian pillars; to ancient landscapes of misty mountains and tumbling waters.

Morrison left Australia six years ago, and now presides over Bric-a-Brac, an award-winning lodgings in Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang, with partner Robert Carmack. 

Khmer Impressions/Les Impressions Khmères is at Sofitel Phokeethra Hotel, The Gallery, Phnom Penh, Cambodia from February 3.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Pamphlets will make sure Australians are safe from coronavirus

Are Australians safe from the fast-spreading coronavirus? The Federal Government is relying on pamphlets to do the job.

China's health ministry said on Monday that "it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger.”

Despite five cases already in Australia - the latest on a flight from Wuhan - the Government of Scott Morrison has ruled out screening all incoming passengers from China, or temporarily halting flights.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said: “Every flight is being met by officials, and officials I’m advised, will be boarding the flights and ensuring each individual who has travelled on those flights is directly receiving information."

That means they are given a pamphlet advising them to contact a doctor if they feel unwell.

Announcements are also being made in airport arrival halls.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said closing Australia’s borders due to coronavirus “would be a very significant step”.

The virus, which started in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has now claimed 80 lives in China and infected over 2700 people.

The Chinese government has also reported five cases in Hong Kong and two in Macao. Small numbers of cases have also been found in Thailand, Taiwan Japan, South Korea, the US, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal and France.

Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told The New Daily he had sent a letter to every GP in Australia, asking them to consider any recent arrival from Wuhan with flu-like symptoms a potential coronavirus case.

“They will probably turn out to be negative, but they should be treated that way, isolated and then referred to the nearest emergency department with calling ahead,” Dr Murphy told the ABC.

China’s National Health Commission said the incubation period for the virus could range from one-to-14 days, during which infection can occur.

But it is OK. The Government says everything in Australia is under control and it has a terrific track record in emergencies. Oops. Sorry.

2020 Tokyo Olympics to showcase Japanese technology

Japan aims to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games to underline that it remains a major global force in innovation and technology.

Visitors can expect to encounter driverless cars, multilingual robot volunteers and ultra-high-definition TV replays.

“Tokyo is at the front of innovation and technology and we are hoping to develop and popularise a diverse range of technological innovations,” says Hidetoshi Fujisawa, Tokyo 2020’s executive director of communications and engagement. 

“The 2020 Games are an opportunity for Japan, for its capital and for the Japanese business community to amaze the world.”

Robots made by Japanese car manufacturer Toyota will be deployed across the Tokyo 2020 sites to aid both workers and attendees at the Games later this year.

Toyota will provide 16 support robots to assist sports fans with tasks such as carrying food and drink, guiding people to their seats and providing event information.

Hirohisa Hirukawa, leader of the Tokyo 2020 Robot Project, says: “The Tokyo 2020 Games are a unique opportunity for us to display Japanese robot technology. This project will not simply be about exhibiting robots, but showcasing their practical real-life deployment helping people.

“So, there will be not only sports at the Tokyo 2020 Games, but some cool robots at work to look forward to as well.

"Robot technology will help deliver a safer and smoother Games and, while robots will be deployed only in specific roles during the Games, the project is expected to showcase their potential for wider application in everyday life."

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has also unveiled the “G-SATELLITE Go to Space” project, which plans to manufacture a small satellite and deploy it in orbit around the earth.

Aimed at both promoting and enlivening the Tokyo 2020 Games from space, the satellite’s payload will include “GUNDAM” and “ZAKU”, two of Japan’s most popular animated characters.

The last time Japan hosted the biggest sporting show on the planet – back in 1964 – it wowed the world by unveiling the shinkansen, the sleek high-speed bullet train that has led the world ever since.

Bullet trains remain a benchmark for ultra-fast and efficient transport.

Japan also used the 1964 Tokyo Games to show off technology including Sharp's LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screens, the first global satellite feed for TV coverage and the Sony Walkman music player.

Japan now faces business challenges from China, South Korea and the United States when it comes to the latest in technological innovation but organisers of the 2020 Games aim to dazzle once more.

“Our vision for the 2020 Games includes an aspiration to make them the most innovative in history," says Masa Takaya, a spokesman for Tokyo 2020.

Japan Inc. is ready to use the occasion to show off innovative new products, said Masanori Matsushima, manager at Panasonic's Olympics department, who oversees an entire exhibition space devoted to Games-time tech.

When overseas visitors arrive at Tokyo’s two airports – Narita and Haneda - they will be greeted by multilingual robots primed to assist them and automatic chairs designed to take them to a destination selected by smartphone.

A man-made meteor shower is projected to be part of the opening ceremony and drone-based surveillance technology will be used to supplement human security guards at venues.

Technology giant NEC is deploying a facial recognition system for 300,000 athletes, staff and journalists that will identify people within 0.3 seconds—speeding up access to venues and bolstering security.

Fujitsu, meanwhile, is working with the International Gymnastics Federation to use laser technology to provide data that will be used by judges to supplement what they see with their own eyes.

NHK hopes to impress a global TV audience with programming of events in ultra high-definition 8K but the main sector hoping to use the games as a spur to innovation is transport.

Toyota will be rolling out its futuristic e-Palette, a driverless car without a steering wheel “which will be able to move around in a pre-defined zone," says Yasunobu Seki, Department General Manager at Toyota's Olympic and Paralympic division.

All Nippon Airways recently tested a driverless bus at Haneda Airport and some driverless taxi services aim to be fully functional in time for the Olympics.

The satellite project, meanwhile, is the result of collaboration between Tokyo 2020 and the University of Tokyo, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and three companies in Fukui prefecture.

This will be the first time in Olympic and Paralympic history that a satellite commissioned specially for the Games will orbit the earth independently.

It will be transported to the International Space Station by rocket and launched from there. It will contain a cubicle housing the two animated figures GUNDAM and ZAKU and an electric bulletin board, which will appear once the satellite is in orbit.

Seven cameras in the satellite will record and transmit their movements. Measuring just 10cm x 10cm x 30cm, the G-SATELLITE will orbit the earth for the duration of the Games, broadcasting images of the planet.

Shinichi Nakasuka, a professor at Intelligent Space Systems Laboratory, University of Tokyo, says: “When I heard about this project, I wondered whether they would really go through with it. We’ve put satellites into orbit before, but then I thought we might be able to do something in space to help cheer on the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“I’m feeling a bit of pressure as the creator of the satellite for this project, but I will turn that pressure into enjoyment and do my best.”

Tokyo 2020 has begun nationwide collections of discarded and obsolete electronic devices, including smartphones, digital cameras, hand-held games and laptops, in order to use the metal they contain in the production of the medals that will be awarded to athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Tokyo 2020 partner companies have also been supporting the project in various ways, for example by collecting their employees' used mobile phones.

Tokyo 2020's mission statement when bidding to host the Olympics for a second time was to use the "world's best technologies" when developing operations for the Games. It appears to be living up to its promise. 

# This is an edited version of a story that first appeared in Quest Kudos magazine.   

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Coronavirus: Whatever you do don't panic - it's only a global crisis

Containing unnecessary panic over the coronavirus outbreak in China is as vital as stemming the spread of the virus itself, global tourism chiefs are warning.

The crisis escalated over the weekend with airports near the city of Wuhan (below) closed and flights cancelled. Flights from many Chinese cities, however, did continue as normal.

The World Travel & Tourism Council said unless lessons are learnt from previous viral epidemics there could be a damaging and lasting economic impact on travel and tourism globally.

But the WTTC is an organisation that has tourism as its raison d'etre and speaks from the point of view of operators, not tourists.

"Previous cases have also shown us that closing airports, cancelling flights and closing borders often has a greater economic impact than the outbreak itself," said Gloria Guevara, WTTC president & CEO. 

Which glosses over the potential for deaths and serious illness.

Guevara really should know better. She was the former Tourism Minister of Mexico and was closely involved with the aftermath, and then recovery, of the Mexican outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009 which led to dozens of deaths.

The WTTC said it supports actions by the Chinese to restrict movement in the affected areas and additional measures being taken further afield, across the Asia Pacific and Europe.

"The most effective management of a crisis requires rapid activation of effective emergency plans, and we can see that in the early days of this outbreak, the Chinese government has acted rapidly," Guevara said.

"Quick, accurate and transparent communication is also crucial in order to contain panic and mitigate negative economic losses. Containing the spread of unnecessary panic is as important as stopping the virus itself.

"We analyse many global crises within WTTC and previous cases have shown us that the economic losses from health epidemics are avoidable, through the effective use of crisis preparedness and management procedures, as well as through managing public panic and making rational decisions through travel."

PHOTO: Workers from local disease control disinfect a
residential area in Ruichang, Jiangxi province in China. (Reuters)

So, basically, it's all about the money.

Analysis of previous major viral epidemics by WTTC experts shows that the average recovery time for visitor numbers to a destination was 19 months, but with the right response and management destinations could recover in as little as 10 months, Travel Mole reported.

The potential future lack of inbound Chinese tourists to destinations in Asia, Australia and the UK looms as a major issue.

Chinese travel agents have been told to stop selling tours and packages - both domestic and international.

As the coronavirus claims more victims, Beijing's Forbidden City palace complex, Shanghai's Disney Resort and other tourist attractions have been shut down, while hotels and airlines are waiving cancellation fees.

Share prices for China's three major airlines - China Southern, China Eastern and China Air - all took a dive when Chinese authorities said they should refund passengers for cancelled flights.

Vietnam and Singapore are the latest countries to confirm new cases of the virus. Cases have already been confirmed in Thailand, Australia, South Korea and Japan.

In Beijing, all "major events" are suspended indefinitely, which includes those for the Chinese New Year holidays, and The Forbidden City is closed.

In Hong Kong, an international carnival and annual football tournament have been cancelled, as have traditional Lunar New Year celebrations in Macau.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Tahbilk winery celebrates a major milestone

Victoria’s oldest family owned winery and vineyard is celebrating its 160th anniversary in 2020 Tahbilk aims to make a noise about the milestone.

Established in 1860 and situated in the Nagambie Lakes region of Victoria, the name Tahbilk means "place of many waterholes".

Tahbilk’s water system is a vital contributor to the viticultural conditions that exist on the estate, creating a unique and valuable mesoclimate.

As custodians of some of the oldest shiraz vines in the world, planted in 1860, Tahbilk plays an important role in the preservation of Australia, and the globe’s, vinous history.

Tahbilk’s contribution to its local community and the broader wine community is unquestioned and as an iconic destination, Tahbilk continues to be a beacon for wine tourism.

An ongoing plan to extend and develop its tourism experience with upgrades to its cellar door and vineyard experiences are approved and happening right now.

Tahbilk’s commitment to the environment and sustainability remain at the forefront of the Purbrick family’s ethos. They have overseen the redevelopment of the internal wetlands precinct over the past 25 years at a substantial financial investment by the family.

Tahbilk has also been accredited as a CarboNZero operation since 2012 and this obvious passion for the environment continues under the keen eye of fifth-generation Purbrick, Hayley.

With a year of domestic and international activity planned to celebrate their 160th milestone, the family also has an eye to 2025 which will herald a century of Purbrick family ownership, another significant anniversary on the horizon.

Current CEO and fourth-generation family member Alister Purbrick said, “We are delighted to celebrate our 160th anniversary in 2020 and have a full year of activities planned.

"Family, our wines and a sense of place are at the heart of our story as we look ahead to 2025 as our next big milestone. Our 160th anniversary gives a respectful nod to the past and a view to the future as we transition the next generation of Purbrick family members to the forefront of our proud family brand.”

Hayley Purbrick, fifth-generation family member, has overseen Tahbilk’s environmental strategy in her role as the Environment, Business Improvement and Digital Content Manager.

“I’m incredibly proud of my family’s immense contribution to the Australian wine landscape and we take this knowledge and experience forward into this fast-moving and modern age," she said. "I look forward to our next chapter with all the passion and enthusiasm of my forebears. Bring it on!”

See for more information.

Margaret River wine producers show their empathy

With several Australian wine regions having been devastated by bush fires, the vignerons of Margaret River have stepped up the plate to help.

Over 50 local businesses in conjunction with the Margaret River Wine Association and Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association the have donated prizes for an online auction, with all proceeds going to help the Australian Red Cross Bushfire Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund and regional causes recommended by Wine Australia and the Australian Grape & Wine.

Bidding is now open with rare wines, luxurious stays, helicopter rides, private vineyard and winery tours and sumptuous meals just some of the auction prizes available for wine lovers to bid on.

It's a win, win with the chance to do some good and possibly snag an unforgettable vinous experience.

The prizes include a collection of all six Margaret River Jimmy Watson Trophy-winning wines; a 12-bottle vertical of Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay; a luxury stay at Voyager Estate; and a personal tour of the Oates End vineyard with winemaker Cath Oates.

Other prizes well worth bidding on include a stay at Cape Lodge; ocean-view accommodation at Hamelin Bay Holiday Park or two nights at Wyadup Brook Cottages with a picnic lunch and Cape to Cape Track transfers.

Ticket to Cape Mentelle International Cabernet Tasting and a helicopter tour of the region also sound enticing.

The auction aims to raise $100,000 and is a collaboration between the Margaret River Wine Association and the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association. 

The auction aims to raise $100,000closes on Friday, February 7.  Visit to place a bid. 

Another auction being run by Amato Vino also has some terrific prizes on offer as part of the Fire Break charity.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Is this the most beautiful place to stay in New Zealand?

Otahuna Lodge, New Zealand's most historic luxury lodge, is celebrating its 125th birthday in 2020 - and it remains a benchmark destination with its remarkable architecture, award-winning gardens and sophisticated cuisine.

The primary residence of noted New Zealand politician Sir Heaton Rhodes for over 60 years, the property was purchased in 2006 by Hall Cannon and Miles Refo, who, committed to maintaining its legacy, transformed the property into a seven-suite colonial-style lodge. 

It is, quite simply, a beautiful place to stay. Very grand, but with a relaxed vibe. 

The name Otahuna means 'little hill among the hills' in Maori. Perched on a hill, the lodge lies between the rocky outcrops of the Banks Peninsula with views of the Southern Alps and vast Canterbury Plains. It is just 30 minutes from Christchurch. 

The Relais & Chateaux property's distinctive features such as a hand-carved Kauri staircase, Rimu panelling, original lead lights and 15 working wood-burning fireplaces. 

Otahuna Lodge is a Category 1 icon listing with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

A decade ago the grounds of the property were recognised as “A Garden of National Significance” by the New Zealand Gardens Trust. 

The 30 acres contain an orchard with peach, pear, plum, quince, walnut and hazelnut trees; a 1⁄2 acre potager, a mushroom garden; a windmill-shaped Dutch Garden and a field that blooms with millions of daffodils each September.

An equally significant feat to the estate's portfolio is the private art collection; including works by well-known artists such as Peter Beadle, Anna Caselberg and Craig Primrose.

The menu at Otahuna Lodge is a celebration of fresh, seasonal flavours inspired by the 120 varieties of fruits and vegetables grown organically in the lodge's garden and orchard. 

Each evening at the lodge sees the chefs orchestrate a five-course degustation menu paired with fine New Zealand wines.

Visit for more information.